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Septic System Care Begins with Property Owners

May 21, 2015

Regular system maintenance ensures personal safety and environmental health

TACOMA, Wash. — Property owners can help keep their families or tenants safe — and the environment healthy — when they practice regular septic system maintenance and follow safety guidelines.

“When property owners arrange timely inspections, make necessary repairs and know the basics of septic system safety, their septic systems should run safely and properly,” said Gary Porter, program manager.

Properly operating septic systems can protect ground, surface and drinking water from contamination. They also help prevent bacterial pollution from entering Puget Sound directly or through storm water run-off into creeks and streams. Another benefit of regular inspections is that shellfish harvested from public waters remain safe to eat. Inspections also can reveal safety issues, such as faulty septic lids.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department offers a variety of innovative financial assistance programs to help property owners get inspections and repairs completed on their septic systems. Up to $450 is available to Key Peninsula residents through the incentive program at www.tpchd.org/incentive, and a number of regional organizations provide affordable loans for septic repairs, including the Clean Water Loan program through Craft3. More information about loan resources is available at www.tpchd.org/septichelp.

An inspection by a septic system professional will determine if pumping is needed and can help identify safety risks. Find a list of certified septic service professionals at www.tpchd.org/septicservicecompanies.

The state of Washington’s Department of Health provides oversight of septic systems as a shared responsibility that begins with property owners. With pollution prevention as the primary goal, state and local authorities — including Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department — prioritize time-of-sale inspections, and inspection and reporting for high-tech septic systems, systems in marine recovery areas and in areas with a high water table.

Safety Guidelines

Porter also outlined a number of septic system safety guidelines for property owners:

  • Know where your septic system is located — If you’re unsure of the location of your septic system and drain field, contact the Health Department at (253) 798-6577 or log on at www.tpchd.org/asbuilt.php to obtain your property’s record drawing. Identifying the location of your septic and drain field can help you:
    • Prevent children and pets from playing around the septic tank lid(s).
    • Avoid building structures over the drain field.
    • Avoid parking cars and heavy equipment on your drain field.
  • Walk your property routinely to observe potential safety or health risks and take steps to address them — Check the drain field and down slope areas for broken equipment, holes, odors, wet spots or surfacing sewage. Exposure to bacteria can cause a health risk to people, pets and the environment.
  • Make sure your septic tank lid(s) properly cover the opening and are secure and durable Check for damage, weakness and cracks to prevent injuries and falls into the tank.
  • Instruct children not to play around septic tank lids — Kids are naturally curious and love to explore outdoors. But playing around the septic tank or trying to open the lid can be dangerous. Kids or pets can be seriously injured from falls into or around the tank, and exposure to bacteria can cause health risks.

More Information

Visit the Health Department page at www.tpchd.org/septic for more information about the Septic System Program.

Contacts:

Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text), ejeffers@tpchd.org
Gary Porter, Program Manager, Environmental Health Division
(253) 798-6469, gporter@tpchd.org

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